Growing a Baby
Part 5 Heading to the Hospital
So, you've made it to the end of the pregnancy! Now it's just a waiting game on when you will be able to meet your baby. And there are probably a thousand questions flowing through your mind about what it will be like to actually be like to bring your baby on to this side of the world.
Bravo to those that have sought out professional birth support so they have an educated resource at their fingertips and someone with whom they can discuss these and the thousands of questions running through your mind.
Let's talk about some of the main ones.
What do contractions feel like?
Wait? Was that a contraction? Well, maybe! But it also could be any number of the crazy feelings that comes with the end of pregnancy.
One very common question we get is, what do contractions feel like. Well, it's a little bit different for everyone. It can start as something very similar to a menstrual cramp, or a dull ache in your lower abdomen or even your back. It may just feel like a tightening that wraps around from front to back and bottom to top of your uterus. It could begin as a strong, downward pressure and opening feeling in your cervix.
Want to hear my advice on these feelings that you may be wondering about? Ignore them. Act like they aren't even there and nothing is happening. Distract yourself, stay busy and keep going about your day.
Are these contractions real?
While these practice contractions may be working on effacing and thinning your cervix, bringing your cervix more forward from a posterior position, and bringing your baby lower, if you are questioning whether or not they are the real deal, they probably aren't baby-bringing contractions. At least not yet.
The only way to know if what you're feeling is making today your baby's birthday, is whether or not your contractions are getting longer, stronger and closer together. If you are noticing that it is taking a little bit more breath to get through one those waves, or you may have to pause and focus your attention completely on remaining relaxed, loose and limp during one of them, then those suckers are most likely the ones that are going to bring your baby into your arms.
So how do I time contractions?
Smart phone contraction timing apps make this pretty easy. All you have to do is hit start when the contraction begins and hit end when it is over. Sometimes they will even have intensity measurements on them. The app will then list the length or duration of the contraction and the time between them.
But, here is the key. The apps don't matter. It is so easy to get wrapped up in timing the contractions. I'll admit it's fun to push the buttons and see the change from wave to wave. However, if your partner, or whomever is supporting you, is more focused on the app than focused on you, it's failing you.
Only time a few contractions every hour. This gives you the ability to have evidence of the contractions getting longer, stronger and closer together, but frees up your partner to just focus on you. Hypnobabies has a really awesome statement of saying that "women don't give birth by numbers" and this is true about so many things with birth including timing your contractions.
It may sound really crazy, especially if this is your first baby, but you and your body know what to do to have this baby. If you can block out the distractions, the books, the apps, the noise, the chatter, and really get in tune with yourself, your intuition will take over. Mammals were given an incredible gift of intuition - and you are a mammal too! A family pet that has been away from all other animals, never witnessed another animal give birth, or had the opportunity to take a dogbirth 101 course, still knows what to do to give birth. What that pet needs is to feel trust, have a sense of calm, and feel safe and protected. Then nature takes over.
My friend, are you not much more capable and special than a family pet? The skill comes in learning to quiet the noise, listen to your own needs and put yourself in the center of your decision-making. No other birth story, childbirth class or presence of a doula will take the place of you knowing what you need and making that a priority.
This is not to say that there is only one right way to give birth. It is, in fact, quite the opposite. Your path is unique to you and only you know your body and needs better than anyone.
How will I know when to go to the hospital?
Always remember, you are the only one that gets to make decisions on when to go to the hospital and what steps to take next. Your responsibility is to talk with your care provider and know what their recommendations are based on your own situation.
If you or your baby are considered high risk and need more monitoring, then please adhere to their recommendations and go in when needed.
Most care providers will say that a good guideline on when to head to the hospital is contractions 4-6 minutes apart, lasting a minute long and have been that way for an hour. The 4-1-1 rule.
Making the decision to leave for the hospital
If you are planning on giving birth in the hospital, then be prepared for what the hospital offers in regards to childbirth. You can always work within the parameters of what is normal hospital policy. Absolutely everything is an option for you within informed consent or refusal. But you need to realize that communication ahead of time and making a plan is quite important to you feeling peaceful about your birth during the process.
- If you are hitting transition and you don't want to deliver your baby at home, it's time to breathe through those contractions and head to your place of birth.
- If you are GBS positive and you need antibiotics to help your baby have less exposure to the bacteria, then you want to get to the hospital in time to have the preferred number of doses.
- If you have reached your maximum comfort level regarding your contractions, and you are ready for your epidural, then it is time to go to the hospital for pain relief. Make this decision knowing epidurals are not administered immediately upon arrival. It takes time to confirm your progress in labor, get a full bag of fluid into your system, and have the anesthesiologist come do the procedure, and then wait for the medicine to work through your system.
- If you are working towards a Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC) and you have a care provider that supports your Trial of Labor After Cesarean (TOLAC), then you may want to head in for any additional monitoring that is desired.
Listen to your body. You are the only one feeling what you are feeling. Healthy and low risk with flexibility in your delivery options? Stay home until you are ready and prepared for what the hospital offers you.
What do I do if my water breaks?
Welcome to one of the craziest feelings on earth. You feel like you are continuously peeing on yourself, but no kegel on earth could stop that flow coming out of your body.
You may possibly be wondering if that leak was actually amniotic fluid or perhaps a bit of urine that decided to before being given permission. It could even just be regular discharge that comes with being 280-ish days pregnant.
If you experienced a big pop and gush, there probably isn't much question on what caused the gush of fluid to rush out of your vagina. If there was a small amount, or any question at all, there are some things you can do to get a better idea of what is going on with your body.
- Empty your bladder, then go sit or lie down for 20-30 minutes. Stand up. If you feel another rush of fluids very similar to what happens during a flow of blood during menstruation, then it is most likely your water has broken. If nothing comes out, you may have inadvertently leaked urine earlier. Keep an eye on it, relax, breathe, pay attention to your baby and see if anything changes with time.
- Smell the fluid that leaked out. Does it smell like ammonia or have a distinct urine smell? Or does it smell earthy, sweet or almost odorless? It may only take a quick whiff to know, or you may feel like you reached a new level of motherhood when nose deep in your own undies.
- Is there any color associated with the fluid? Is it darker than normal? Maybe have a green or brown color? Small brown flecks floating in it? It is highly likely this is your amniotic fluid leaking and it is time to contact your care provider. Sometimes the presence of meconium-stained amniotic fluid can signal some distress for the baby and they will probably suggest heading in to the hospital.
- It's normal to have some blood-tinged mucous with your water breaking or even have a little bit come out before or after your water breaks. This is normal with losing your mucous plug, a common occurrence after vaginal exams, and is expected when your cervix starts to dilate. The capillaries around the cervix burst and blood shows up when wiping or with other discharge. However, if you have a gush of bright red blood, menstruating-type bleeding, or are concerned about the quantity of bleeding, please contact your care provider as soon as possible.
- Is there anything else besides fluid coming out of your vagina? The presence of the umbilical cord, a limb or any other immediate presenting part warrants a call to 911.
In normal, healthy, low-risk pregnancies, you do not need to immediately rush to the hospital when your water has broken. Take some time to savor the moment, enjoy knowing you will get to meet your baby soon, take a shower and maybe grab a light meal if you are hungry.
Let your body start doing the work it knows how to do and enjoy the energy your body puts into bringing your baby into your arms. Most importantly of all, smile! It's almost your baby's birthday!
Missed any of the first 4 in the Growing a Baby blog series? Check them out below:
The second half of this series where we explore parenthood with a new baby will begin soon. Keep an eye out for it!